With nearly all of its 2006 World Cup third-place team intact, Germany is the hot favorite to win the European Championship. World Soccer's Nick Bidwell chats with defender Philipp Lahm.
World Soccer: Why do you think Germany will win the tournament?
Lahm: At the last World Cup, we all had the feeling that a new team was born, one without any complexes and with lots of desire, ambition and, of course, talent. Once the disappointment had subsided after the semifinal defeat by Italy, the focus naturally switched to the European Championship. We all want to relive the emotion of our World Cup, with this time a little more success. We can take nothing for granted. France, Italy, Holland and Spain will fancy their chances as well. But we are clearly moving in the right direction. We were the first team to qualify.
World Soccer: How do you rate your group opponents?
Lahm: I don't like to hear people say it's a foregone conclusion we will easily win the group. Complacency is not something we can afford if we want to go a long way in the tournament. Austria, as the host nation, will have a special motivation, and Poland always makes life difficult for us. Croatia is a team I rate very highly. Despite missing Eduardo because of injury, they still have a lot of attacking talent, guys who can do the extraordinary.
World Soccer: Which of your teammates do you expect to particularly shine?
Lahm: The ones who score the goals, whether it's Michael Ballack, Miro Klose, Mario Gomez, Kevin Kuranyi or Lukas Podolski. Miro has proved on more than one occasion that he is a man for big tournaments, and the others are all superb strikers in their own right.
World Soccer: How do you feel about the possibility of facing your Bayern Munich colleagues Franck Ribéry and Luca Toni later in the tournament?
Lahm: Well, it certainly will be a challenge as they are not only both world-class attackers, but also in the form of their lives. If we do meet France, there's a strong possibility I will come face-to-face with Franck. Naturally, I know many of his tricks and how he goes about his business. Hopefully, that will be to my advantage and I would like to think that in the last season or two I have become better defensively. Luca is as much a phenomenon as Franck. He makes goal-scoring look so easy, he has the power, the touch and the finishing. I can see him having a fantastic time in Switzerland and Austria.
World Soccer: What is your best position: right back, left back or defensive midfield?
Lahm: Since I'm right-footed, right back would be my choice. But ultimately, it's not my decision and I have to say I just enjoy playing, full stop. I have the confidence to think that wherever I am on the pitch, my performance level will be the same. All that matters is to be in the first XI.
World Soccer: What are your best and worst European Championship memories?
Lahm: The worst was being in the side that was knocked out of the group stage of Euro 2004. Our fans expect a lot from the national team. Being held to a goalless draw by Latvia and losing 2-1 to the Czech second string was not acceptable. The best was watching the Euro '96 semi between Germany and England on TV. It was a game with everything: end-to-end action, near misses and us winning on penalties.
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